On the Bloodletting series
“The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” –John Brown, December 1859.
“Yet the contest proceeds.”–Abraham Lincoln, September 1862
“...He hung over his door, on the customary nail, a gaudy sort of illuminated pasteboard sign, skillfully executed by himself, gilt with the likeness of a razor elbowed in readiness to shave, and also, for the public benefit, with two words not unfrequently seen ashore gracing other shops besides barbers’: ‘NO TRUST.’”
–Herman Melville, Chapter 1, The Confidence-Man, 1857
Bloodletting was practiced for centuries to balance the humors and restore the body to health. In England this practice was the province of the Barber-Surgeon; clean and bloodied bandages would be hung outside, twisting in the wind–which in time developed into the barber-pole we know today (or so the story goes). The traditional red and white was augmented with blue in the United States, particularly after the country’s centennial.
This series initially grew out of research into the red and white patterning of radio tower and developed into an exploration of the meaning of national violence. Although blood-letting is largely discredited today as a medical practice, the periodic national bloodletting of futile wars continues to have its advocates.
Perhaps we are still paying out the sum we owe to restore our health as predicted in the 1850s. Bloodletting abroad a distraction of the blood on the streets at home. Was the bloodletting John Brown spoke of a confession? a warning?a threat? an invitation? an oath? an incitement? a prayer? a reckoning?
Who aims? Who pulls the trigger? Who draws the blade? Who binds the wound? Who clings to purity? Who claims the truth? When will balance be restored?
A thousand crimes, times a thousand. How many grievances? How many debts unpaid? No Trust.